It was exactly one year ago today that I woke up in the Reina Isabel hotel in Quito, Ecuador for the first day of a two-week visit that would impact my life significantly. The first week was spent with World Vision, traveling to various Area Development Programs to learn about the impact our work was having on the local indigenous people while the second week was pure vacation time. You can read all about the trip here.
Not long after returning home I was sharing with someone my excitement about the trip and the impact it made. "Life changing" is the phrase I, and so many others, use to describe an international mission experience. The person I was sharing with at the time said something to the effect of, "well that's great but let's see what kind of impact it has a year from now." In other words, has it really been life changing, or just a blip on my regular day-to-day life? It was a good question then and remains a good question today. Looking back a year later I would say yes, my two weeks in Ecuador were life changing, but perhaps not quite in the way I had expected.
When it comes to my work with World Vision, the impact has been tremendous. I had a really strong head knowledge about poverty and could quote statistics verbatim. My public presentations would be filled with facts and stats which, in the end, really don't motivate many people to action anyway. We all know there are a lot of hungry people in the world. But it is far easier to dismiss the facts about one billion hungry people than it is to dismiss the story of one hungry person. I never get tired of sharing the stories of the individual fathers, mothers, and children I met. My connection to them and to my job in general is far more emotional now. I don't do this because I need a job. I don't do this because I want to reach my performance goals. I do this because I love the people I met. And, while that was just a handful of people out of the billions who live in poverty, that handful represents for me anyone who struggles to meet their daily needs. Every time I say the Lord's Prayer, the "us" (as in "give us this day our daily bread") means far more than me or my family or my circle of friends. It means all of us. And if I'm asking God to give "us" our daily bread, and I have more than enough bread for myself (I'm using bread here metaphorically), then I'm the one who has a responsibility to share my bread with those who are doing without. We don't need Jesus to do another loaves and fish miracle. In developed countries we have more than enough bread and fish. We just need to loosen our grip on them to share with those in need. That's where it gets personal...and far more difficult.
I like to think I'm more generous with my resources - my time, talents, and treasure - than I used to be, but honestly, I just don't know. For the most part, I still get antsy when I'm in the grocery store or a shopping mall. When I first arrived home though, I couldn't actually stand to go shopping without having a bit of a meltdown. Seeing the unbridled consumerism of Canadian culture would make me angry...really angry. Unfortunately, my wife took the brunt of that far too often but was gracious enough to recognize where that anger was coming from. I know I've fallen back into just buying what I want (within reason) but my relationship with money and possessions is far more complicated now than it used to be. That's probably a step in the right direction, but it's not good enough. I know kids who will go to bed hungry tonight yet I really needed that new shirt I bought today (even though I now have to discard something to make room for it in my cupboard). Consumerism is a sickness, an addiction, but like all addictions, the first step to overcoming it is to realize you have a problem in the first place. I'm probably a few healthy steps down the road on this one but I still have a long way to go.
I wish I could say more, but it's late and I need to get some rest. If you've checked in on this blog from time to time you'll see that I'm not writing nearly as much as I used to. I find that when I write, even though it often appears on screen as an intellectual process, it comes from an emotional place inside. I try to give myself emotionally to my work so I find there is often not a lot of gas left in the tank to spend updating this blog at the end of the day. Also, Facebook and Twitter have been tempting mistresses that have pulled me away from blogging regularly but I'm starting to lose my fascination with them. Hopefully I'll get back in the rhythm of writing more often. Until next time...Dios te bendiga.